Mr. Speaker, in the time I have been privileged to serve the people of Vancouver Kingsway, two very fundamental concepts have been rendered very apparent to me. The first is time is one of the most important currencies in Parliament. The second is that majority rule is the cornerstone of our democracy. I believe the current motion before us on privilege engages both of those very important principles and I stand in support of the question of privilege that has been made.
I had the privilege also of being present throughout the whole health committee meeting in question and I witnessed everything that happened from beginning to end. I am not going to repeat the basic facts, as I think they have been well stated by the member for Banff—Airdrie.
As members know, the meeting started at 11 a.m. eastern time. It is typically a two-hour meeting, but because of the number of motions and the number of members wanting to speak, the meeting was extended beyond that time period.
It was also the case that about halfway through the meeting, the chair let it be known, in advance, that the meeting would end at 4:30 p.m. eastern time because there would be a lack of technical support at that time. When we approached 4:30 p.m. and the chair acted according to the warning he made, there were still a number of speakers who wanted to speak to the motion on the floor and there was no motion to adjourn on the floor. As you deliberate on this matter, I would think it important for you to note that at no time did any member of the committee, including on the Liberal side, make a motion to adjourn, and I can tell you why: It was because it was clear that the majority on that committee wanted the meeting to continue. It would have been a simple matter to adjourn the meeting at any time.
The nub of the matter, to speak to the real essence of what is before you, might require you to resolve what I think is a very pointed claim made by the previous speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the House leader, when he said that a chair can adjourn a meeting at any time the chair wants, for any reason he or she wants. With great respect, I am going to suggest that this is false. I do not believe that is the case at all, and I leave it to your great research to determine what the proper circumstances are.
The reason I say that is that as my hon. colleague from Calgary Nose Hill very appropriately stated, because when one is in opposition and members want to speak, using the currency of time in a political sense to continue debate for whatever reason is appropriate. It is equally appropriate for members on the opposite side to filibuster. That is what was going on at this meeting. The opposition and the government members were all acting completely appropriately.
The issue is, when does that end? I would respectfully submit that it ends when a proper motion to suspend or adjourn the meeting is passed by a majority. Until that is done, the meeting continues until there are no speakers who wish to have the floor.
I want to say as well that at the very end, there was a motion to challenge the chair's ruling on privilege. I think this point has been made too, but what is troubling to me and my fellow New Democrat colleagues is that during that very vote, a Bloc Québécois member, a colleague on the committee, was deprived of her right to cast her ballot because she had no translation during the vote. Therefore, the very vote that the chair relied on to end the meeting was flawed because it was interrupted by a lack of translation. If you review the record, which I ask you to do, you will see that this was the case.
I also want to raise a point that has not been made by anybody up to this point. It is with respect to the consequences of suspending a meeting. As we sit here today, days after that meeting, it is not possible to go to ParlVu to see or listen to that meeting. The minutes are not public yet, so right now the public is prevented from seeing the proceedings. That is another detrimental consequence of a chair's unilateral suspension of a meeting without the democratic mandate of the committee to do so. Not only is it a breach of our privilege as members, but I believe the Canadian public has been unable to see what happened at that meeting because of that as well.
The point has already been made, so I will not dwell on the fact that this was a Friday afternoon. It was not the case of another committee needing to use the room. I appreciate and understand that given these virtual meetings, there are some atypical considerations that may go into a committee's engaging in debate after the time of expiry. However, that contingency can be safely eliminated in this case, because on the Friday afternoon there was no other committee that needed that room and it would have been a simple matter for us to adjourn for a few minutes to get other interpreters and further tech support.
I would also point out that the chair never explained what the technical support problems were, so we were left wondering what technical support issues prevented us from continuing the meeting. In my mind, those could have been easily remedied with perhaps a five-, 10- or 15-minute adjournment.
In my respectful submission, the way that political conflict is resolved in our system is by a democratic vote that happens in the House and at committee. I believe the chair of the health committee was well-intentioned but mistaken when he chose to unilaterally end that meeting and deprive the member for Calgary Nose Hill—